Protecting Education and Culture: The Danger of HB4654 in West Virginia

WV legislatureIn a time when education and cultural institutions are more important than ever for fostering knowledge and understanding, West Virginia faces a threat that could regress the state’s progress. House Bill 4654, currently before the West Virginia Legislature, poses a significant risk to the state’s museums, libraries, and schools. Thankfully, the West Virginia Association of Museums (WVAM) vehemently opposes this bill. It’s crucial to understand the detrimental effects it could have on the state’s educational and cultural landscape.

At its core, HB4654 jeopardizes the freedom of expression and intellectual exploration that are essential in educational and cultural settings. The bill’s vague language, particularly in its definition of “obscene matter,” leaves room for interpretation that could lead to harmful attacks and litigation against museums, libraries, and schools. This definition fails to provide clear guidelines and could subject educational materials and programming to censorship and legal challenges.

Museum exhibits and programs are designed to provoke thought, spark conversation, and present diverse perspectives. However, under the ambiguous terms of HB4654, even well-intentioned educational initiatives could face scrutiny and legal action. This not only stifles creativity and innovation but also undermines the role of museums as vital community resources for learning and engagement.

Moreover, the threat of criminal prosecution against museum professionals and volunteers further undermines the collaborative relationship between institutions and their communities. Instead of fostering dialogue and understanding, HB4654 instills fear and restricts the ability of museums to fulfill their mission of educating and inspiring visitors.

The detrimental impact of HB4654 extends beyond individual museums; it threatens the cultural and educational development of West Virginia as a whole. By inhibiting the free exchange of ideas and limiting access to diverse perspectives, this bill would hinder the state’s progress and perpetuate its status as the least educated state in the nation.

As advocates for education, literacy, and cultural enrichment, the WVAM urges lawmakers to reconsider the language of HB4654 and consult with educators, librarians, and museum professionals. It’s essential to protect the integrity of our educational and cultural institutions and ensure that they remain safe spaces for exploration and discovery.

Again, the passage of HB4654 would represent a significant step backward for West Virginia, undermining the very institutions that are critical to its future success. I stand with the WVAM in its opposition to this bill and calls upon legislators to prioritize the preservation of education and culture for the benefit of all West Virginians.

What can you do?

1. Read WVAM’s statement about HB4654.

2. Contact your Senators. Tell them why you oppose the bill and/or how it might impact your museums and cultural institutions.

3. Sign the Petition.

The specific language of the bill can be found here: WV House Bill 4654.

Definitions of obscene materials can be found here: §61-8A-1. Definitions.

Myths and Facts about HB House Bill 4654.